Friday Florida Law Update

Welcome to the Friday Florida law update, where I discuss an appellate opinion from the prior week.  It was a pretty quiet week in Florida’s appellate courts, as the panels were primarily in the mood to affirm rulings from the trial courts. 

We do have a case to talk briefly about though.  In WTVJ-NBC 6 v. Shehadeh, 2011 WL 798918 (Fla. 3d DCA March 9, 2011), the underlying dispute was between former Homestead City Manager Mike Shehadeh and the City of Homestead regarding an alleged breach of Shehadeh’s employment agreement.  In discovery, Shehadeh sought to compel a local TV reporter to appear for deposition and to produce original text and pin messages he received from members of the City Council, in an effort to see whether the reporter obtained the information from a public records search or was leaked information from the City Council.

After the trial court ordered the deposition, the reporter and network petitioned the appellate court for a Writ of Certiorari, claiming that the trial court’s ruling departed from the essential requirements of the law.  In opposing the deposition, the petitioners invoked Florida’s recently added “journalist privilege,” which protects journalists from disclosing their sources absent a clear and specific showing that 1) the information is relevant and material to unresolved issues in the underlying case; 2) the information cannot be obtained from alternative sources; and 3) a compelling interest exists for requiring disclosure of the information. 

In this case, the Third DCA held that only the first prong was established.  The moving party could have easily obtained the information by inquiring with the City whether it received a public records request from the reporter and, similarly, has no compelling interest to ask these questions of the reporter as opposed to getting the identical discovery from the City. 

It is good to see Florida’s courts protecting a journalist’s sources, which should further enable the free flow of information. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

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